A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday granted a request from former Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren to expedite his lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who suspended Warren from his office in 2022 over neglect of duty and incompetence.
Judge Jill Pryor, an Obama appointee on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, ordered an accelerated review of Warren’s lawsuit, which argues DeSantis acted illegally and “canceled the votes of hundreds of thousands of Floridians.”
The case will be heard in the first week of May in Montgomery, Alabama.
Warren’s attorneys appealed a Jan. 20 ruling in federal district court that found DeSantis’ decision to suspend Warren violated the First Amendment and the Florida state Constitution, but said the court was unable to provide declaratory or injunctive relief. DeSantis has said he suspended Warren, a Democratic prosecutor backed by liberal billionaire George Soros, for “neglecting his duties” after Warren pledged not to bring charges against anyone who violates state abortion restrictions or bans on gender-transition procedures for minors.
“The public needs resolution at the earliest possible opportunity of whether the Governor illegally removed the duly elected chief prosecutor in the State’s third most populous city and who lawfully occupies that critical office,” Warren’s attorneys said in court documents filed on Feb. 14.
“The dispute turns on important constitutional issues concerning the First Amendment limits on the Governor’s authority to remove other Florida elected officials, and whether the Governor may use that authority as a tool to silence viewpoints and ideas he opposes. Until this case is resolved, the degree of protection to be afforded core political speech by the State’s elected representatives remains in doubt,” they said.
In a responding motion, Florida Solicitor General Henry Charles Whitaker told the appeals court that Warren’s pronouncements “invite lawlessness and reflect Mr. Warren’s fundamental misunderstanding of his role as a Florida prosecutor.”
“Because Mr. Warren supports abortion rights, he announced that he would not prosecute abortion crimes. Because Mr. Warren disagrees with criminalizing transgender-related medical procedures, he proclaimed that he would not enforce any such laws. And because Mr. Warren believes that he – not the legislature – decides whether conduct should be criminal, he instructed his office not to prosecute many lower-level offenses and offenses stemming from bicycle shops unless they satisfied an extraneous element of his choosing – the presence of a public safety threat,” Whitaker wrote.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Following DeSantis’ suspension of Warren last year, the governor told Fox News at the time: “I do think that some of these prosecutors that have very militant agenda in terms of ideology have been able to get away with a lot in other states… We’ve had prosecutors around this country that think they can pick and choose which laws to enforce.”
Warren’s attorney, David O’Neil, told Reuters on Wednesday that Warren should have been reinstated after the district court found that his suspension violated U.S. and Florida law.
O’Neil said the appeals court “recognized the need to resolve quickly the critical First Amendment issues this case presents.”
Fox News’ Kyle Morris contributed to this report.